Wes Hoolahan | “I’d have loved to play for Stephen Kenny”

Wes Hoolahan says it is an exciting time for Irish football.

The former Republic of Ireland international, who is set to make his A-League debut for Newcastle Jets in the coming weeks, is also backing the Boys in Greens to qualify for Euro 2020.

Mick McCarthy’s men will face Slovakia away in the play-off semi-final, with a clash against either Northern Ireland at Windsor Park or Bosnia away awaiting Ireland if they reach the final.

“It’s a difficult two games but I’ve every confidence in them,” Hoolahan told AAP’s David Smith.

“Hopefully they go out there and give it a go, especially with the two games at the Euros at the Aviva, it’s going to be a great occasion if we get there.

“With Stephen Kenny taking over, and bleeding the young players through, it’s an exciting time for Ireland.”

Hoolahan, who scored three goals in 43 caps for Ireland, says he would have relished the opportunity to play under Kenny.

“I would have loved it,” the Dubliner admits.

“The few managers I played under played more physical, long ball.

“Stephen Kenny is more of a tactical manager. He likes to get the ball down and play football. It’s definitely exciting for Ireland.”

Hoolahan is happy to see his old club Shelbourne return to the Premier Division, speaking fondly of his days at the club, but the former Premier League midfielder ruled out a return to Irish football.

The 37-year-old is nearing a return to first team football in Newcastle after suffering ligament damage in his ankle against Adelaide United last September.

He has settled well into life on Australia’s east coast, and returned to training with his Jets teammate two weeks ago.

The former Norwich playmaker was included on the bench for Newcastle’s scoreless draw with Western United last weekend, but told AAP that this weekend’s clash against Central Coast Mariners may come too soon for him.

“It’s coming along slowly but surely,” he says of his recovery.

“We’re getting there. The Mariners match is maybe a bit too soon, I’m just going to see how it (his ankle) is. I’ve been training with the boys but it’s different when it’s a game. You really need to be at 100%.”

Newcastle fans will be hoping that Hoolahan can add some much-needed creativity in the final third. The struggling Jets have scored just 13 league goals this season, and are bottom of the table after 15 matches.

Their poor form cost manager Ernie Merrick his job, with Craig Dean assuming duties as caretaker manager following Merrick’s departure, and former Wales international Carl Robinson being announced as the club’s new manager yesterday..

“Hopefully I can bring some composure to the team,” Hoolahan says.

“You know, when you’re in that situation to shoot, to take a touch maybe.

“Obviously with my experience playing in the Premier League and the Championship over in England, hopefully I can bring that to the team.”

‘Wessi’s’ return to fitness coincides with Irish striker Roy O’Donovan’s return to the club.

34-year-old Cork forward O’Donovan, who previously spent two years at the Jets, has rejoined Newcastle following a brief stint at Robbie Fowler’s Brisbane Roar.

“It’s brilliant,” Hoolahan continues.

“There’s a few Irish guys there now so it’s great. Roy has settled in straight away but obviously he’s been here for a couple of years before that.”

Dean expects the Irish duo to have a big impact for the remainder of the season.

“Wes comes with a fair bit of confidence about himself being an experienced player, and Roy’s the same,” he said.

“They know themselves, they know the game. They’re confidence players, and they’ll certainly add that to the team.

“Their quality as players is already there for everyone to see. Wes in England, and Roy’s record here over the last three-four years, has been very good.”